Food + Drink

Best bets for holiday toasts

Our picks for special wines and spirits to bring home this holiday season.

by MICHAEL PINKUS

In this crazy year of 2020, we have finally made it to the end of the road: December. This year the holidays are going to look a little different—less family, fewer friends and maybe a few less gifts under the tree, in the stocking or by the “Hanukkah Bush” (I know there is no such thing). Let’s see if I can’t raise your spirits with some spirits, some special wines and a dose of this and that … you’ll see what I mean.


SCORE KEY

Good ★★★ ½

Very Good ★★★★

Excellent ★★★★ ½

Outstanding ★★★★★

+ Wines with a little bit extra.




Buonamico NV Particolare Gran Cuvee Brut Rosé

Italy, $20.95, Vintages 16712

★★★★

This is a particular blend not often seen in sparkling wine: Sangiovese and Syrah. It is made by a producer in Tuscany, Italy and created in the Prosecco style, but it is so light and lively and full of great flavours you’ll forget the back story and go straight for a second and third glass – so let me get right to it. Delicious apple, raspberry-rhubarb and even hints of lime appear on the finish—very refreshing. A great gift and unique too, so go out and pick up half a dozen, you can thank me later.

Massolino 2016 Barolo, Serralunga d’Alba

Italy, $61.95, Vintages 11205

★★★★ ½

This beautiful 2016 Barolo should not only be on your table but also in your cellar for many more years to come. Aged in oak for 30 months, then bottle aged for more than a year. The wine comes from vines of Nebbiolo grapes in age 10 to 55 years—and for those with a penchant for history, this wine has been produced since 1911 (109 years). As for the wine: lots of sour cherry and earthy notes kick things off, while the acidity is totally on-point … the deeper and more in depth you go you’ll find dark fruit, mocha, coffee bean, but that fruit keeps coming back ripe and juicy. The finish doles out tobacco/cigar box and the dark fruit actually turns red with red currant and cherry. Amazing bottle that will hold 20-plus-years in the cellar.

Zirkova Vodka One & Together

Ukraine, $30.90 each, LCBO 638197 / 638205

★★★★

This double dose of vodka magic comes from Ukraine but has roots firmly planted in Ontario (where the company founder resides). These two have very specific purposes: ONE is made for solo (or neat) drinking: it’s smooth and has pronounced vanilla notes . TOGETHER is made for blending in your favourite cocktail: it has defined alcohol, woody and caramel notes that will hide nicely behind orange juice, cranberry or cola, but still give it a kick.

1800 Repasado Tequila Reserva

Mexico, $39.95, LCBO 398479

★★★★+

Made from 100 per cent agave and aged in both US and French oak (for a minimum of six months) and is a really pretty butterscotch colour. This tequila is some kind of “yummy” for those who like to chase the worm (so to speak). in actual fact there is no worm in the bottle, but you will find beeswax, floral, caramel and a silky-smooth finish—this one’s for shooters … If you can still handle those

Bushmills Malt 10-Year Old Irish Whiskey

Ireland, $49.95, LCBO 131870

★★★★

This might just bring out your inner Irish-person, this 10-year-old oak aged whiskey from the Emerald Isle is super-smooth going in with notes of vanilla and caramel; and if you are willing to look for it you’ll also discover some white peach and even hints of grapefruit zest. Sitting and whiling away the evening with this in your glass is too dang easy—a fire and some slippers please.

Five Farms Single Batch Irish Cream Liqueur

Ireland, $39.50, LCBO 12197

★★★★+

Want to try something different from than your usual Bailey’s? This creamy, pleasure is from the County of Cork in Ireland, is made with real cream and reminds me of coffee cream with a touch of caramel and butterscotch with a hint of anise on the finish. Great on its own or add a shot to your Christmas day coffee.

Forty Creek Nanaimo Bar Cream

Ontario, $29.95, LCBO 18426

★★+

Stop in the Name of Love … This might end up being your next (and favourite) whisky-based cream liqueur. Period. It has all the trappings to drink straight, and by the glass (and I’m not talking about a shot glass). Vanilla, coconut, chocolate—it hits all the right Nanaimo bar notes that it is supposed to. Dangerously good!!

Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne

France, $59.95, LCBO 462432

★★★★

Look, if you’re a Champagne fan then I really don’t need to describe the deliciousness that is the real thing. If you are wondering why you need Champagne in your life (on occasion) then how about notes of almond biscuits and baked apple—just for starters—backed by good acidity and a ton of bubbles.

Veuve A Devaux Champagne Grand Reserve

France, $60.95, consignment through Profile Wine Group

★★★★+

This one kicks Champagne enjoyment up a notch. Biscuity and toasty notes kick things off then notes of lime zest, apple pie crust and French bread with an acidity that bits hard on the tongue, while cleaning and cleansing the palate. Fresh, lively and delicious.

Domaine Carneros 2016 Brut Cuvee

California, $49.95, Vintages 301655

★★★★

Those looking for California bubbles with a Champagne-back story need look no further than this bottle of Domaine Carneros, it’s from the folks that bring you Taittinger. Lots of apple and toasty notes that mix with that bread-crust and yeasty complexity found in really good French Champagne. The finish closes out with lemon zest, apple skin and a nice touch of acidity.

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